Activists urge continued community engagement at Ma'Khia Bryant demonstration

Jillian Atelsek, The Frederick News-Post, Md.
·2 min read

Apr. 25—Under a cloudy sky Saturday evening, Kristen Lundy addressed a crowd of about 20 demonstrators gathered at Mullinix Park.

"Take a look around," she called to them through a megaphone. "See how much space is here? That's a problem."

Community organizing group Frederick United had put out a call on Facebook for a march to the county courthouse in response to the police killing of Ma'Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl in Columbus, Ohio. Despite attendance far lower than that of demonstrations last summer — when thousands flooded Downtown Frederick in support of the Black Lives Matter movement — Lundy and others said their fight was far from over.

"We need to keep reiterating how important it is for us to unify," said demonstrator Laura Sczerzenie. "I think we can bridge the gaps and try to get more people back out again."

Columbus police shot Ma'Khia four times on Tuesday within seconds of arriving on the scene where she was swinging a knife toward another girl. Attendees at Saturday's event said officers should have attempted to take her into custody safely, no matter how she was behaving.

They made note of Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager who is charged with shooting three people — killing two of them — after protests broke out in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. Rittenhouse, who had been armed with an AR-15, was arrested at his mother's house the next day.

"A lot of people feel that because Ma'Khia Bryant had a knife in her hand, that she deserved what happened to her," Lundy said. "That's not the case."

On their march from Mullinix Park to the courthouse, demonstrators shouted Ma'Khia's name. They chanted "she was just a child," "Black lives matter" and "prosecute police."

In front of the courthouse, several demonstrators addressed the crowd. Sasha Czeh of Whittier cited County Executive Jan Gardner's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which increases law enforcement funding by nearly $3 million. In total, Gardner is proposing more than $54 million go to the sheriff's office — an increase of about 6 percent from last year.

"That's despicable to me," Czeh said. She and others at the event said they wanted to see some of the county's law enforcement funding go toward social services, mental health care and senior services instead.

As the demonstration wound down, Lundy thanked those in attendance. She urged them, too, to return to the streets whenever they could — and to bring friends and family with them.

Her group is already planning future marches, she said.

"We're back," Lundy said. "We haven't forgotten Frederick."

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek